Written by Rory Warnock
When I was first introduced to Young Thug’s latest mixtape, Jeffery, I didn’t quite know what to make of it. Presenting itself as a familiar but unique record, it took me multiple listenings to realize the way Young Thug differentiates himself from his peers. Overall, Young Thug’s third studio album of 2016 offers itself as a conscientious awakening of sorts. It does this in the way Thug depicts himself through the levels of image, audio and text to initiate a new stage in his career as Jeffery.
Right off the bat, Young Thug makes an impact with his most recent project of 2016. Sporting an outfit that resembles a Japanese take on an antebellum dress, Thug pushes an open concept of gender directly on the cover of his latest mixtape. Created by Italian fashion designer Alessandro Trincone, the outfit worn by Thug was constructed with a sartorial sense of gender fluidity. Despite producing music within a genre that presents, more often than not, a dominantly stereotypical discourse around sex and gender, Young Thug is an artist who openly opposes and contradicts traditional gender constructs. In my time following his development as an artist, these sentiments of playing fast and loose with gender constructs have become an ever more important theme in Young Thug’s career. Ultimately this ties in with his push to separate himself from other artists prone to hypermasculinity as other legendary icons, such as David Bowie and Prince, did before him.
Jeffery is Young Thug’s most unique and ambitious project to date. One particular defining feature of Thug’s latest work is that he has titled each track after his musical and cultural idols, naming songs on Jeffery after impactful figures like Wyclef Jean, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, Rihanna, and, oddly enough, the internet famous Gorilla, Harambe. Each track retains some element of the individual in the title, such as the the obvious rapper bravado flow, the low synthesize melody and squealing crescendo typical of Future in the song Future Swag. Although despite these homages, Young Thug carves out his own particular sound throughout his mixtape.
Sonically, the composition of Jeffery is much different than Thug’s previous albums, I’m Up and Slime Season 3, both released earlier in 2016. Unlike either of these projects, Jeffery moves away from a strictly trap music style and heavily incorporates melodic guitars and bountiful basslines common of both reggae and dancehall music, respectively. While Trap and its strict Atlanta connection still remain as a base in Thug’s work, it is obvious that Young Thug has transitioned from a simply trap sound to one of more variety.
What I find increasingly fascinating is the multitude of ways Young Thug alternates his voice in this mixtape. Specifically, each recording contains a different inflection, power and essence of intonation. On the recordings of Wyclef Jean and Guwop, Thug presents a softer and smoother vocal performance in tandem with the accompanying instrumentals. These tracks represent a stark contrast to other songs on the album, particularly Harambe, where Thug pushes his vocals to screeching new levels, fittingly channeling the animalistic side of his musicianship. All of these elements come together and distinguish Young Thug from his Atlanta trap counterparts by demonstrating a new, more complete phase of his artistry.
Besides the album cover and the musical development, Young Thug’s choice to title the album Jeffery, formerly No, My Name is Jeffery, is a bold one. To step away from the alias that made him famous and returning to the moniker that he was raised with, Jeffery Lamar Williams, is a compelling. I feel that this name change helps distinguish Thug from the oversaturated style of trap music, which he is also doing through his style choices and rounded musical content on this record. Thug has claimed that his reasoning for the name change is largely due to fact that he does not want his children or career to be associated with the title, Thug. Despite the name change however, Young Thug’s career will be marked by his past and the evolution he is currently undergoing.
I understand the irony in the fact that I have been claiming that this record represents a new stage in Young Thug’s career as Jeffery, only to refer to the rapper by his previous name. Despite my confusing choices, I still argue that the key elements of the album’s cover choice, musicianship and title all combine to push the aforementioned hip-hop star into a new level in his career as Jeffery. Who knows what Young Thug, or Jeffery, will bring next. Although if this trend continues, I am hopeful his future work will be just as creative and progressive.
Make sure to check out Jeffery, the new album by Young Thug sooner rather than later.